More Than a Chocolate Story

By Kathryn Reed | Monday, December 4, 2023

With her ever-popular Dorinda's Chocolates & Essentials retail locations well entrenched in Truckee and Reno, Dorinda Vance is known throughout the region as the "Duchess of Chocolate." And now she has broadened her specialty foods offerings with the purchase of Tahoe Oil & Spice in Truckee.

Once you have experienced the specialty olive oils, vinegars, honeys, chocolates and other culinary delights that Dorinda has for sale at her stores in Truckee, you will never be able to shop for those items at a grocery store again. These gourmet items are just too good and unique to go back to ordinary.

The 10-year-old Tahoe Oil & Spice store is two doors down from Dorinda’s Chocolates & Essentials on Donner Pass Road.

“The stores are not together yet, but I have ideas,” Dorinda says coyly about how the two enterprises might one day meld.

What led Dorinda to purchase Tahoe Oil & Spice was the quality of the products sold in the store. 

“I thought the products had the same standards of Dorinda’s Chocolates, and I thought they would mix well," she says, adding that she envisions using some of the spices, like single-barrel pepper and special sea salt flakes, in future chocolate recipes.

The variety of choices lining the shelves and display cases at these two stores might seem overwhelming at first. At Tahoe Oil & Spice, the spice collection now tops 50 options, and the store carries more than 40 balsamic vinegars, nearly 30 olive oils and more than 20 types of honey. The oils are sourced from throughout the world with an eye toward the seasonality of the olives. You will find this liquid wonder from California, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Australia and Chile. Balsamic vinegars are produced in small batches in Modena, Italy.

The fact that oils, vinegars, chocolates and other goodies can be tasted is bound to help with the decision-making. Of course, it could have the opposite effect, meaning you will need a bigger bag for all of your purchases!

The gourmet items sold at Tahoe Oil & Spice are practical for the home cook while at the same time making for inspired gift giving. In fact, Dorinda has expanded the selection of gift-type items, such as a collection of olive wood kitchen accessories. With a bit of an Italian theme to the store, Dorinda also sells pasta and pasta sauces, including a line that is made and branded especially for them. Most of the gourmet goods have been sourced from proprietors who are certified organic, kosher and non-GMO.

Two buildings down, it's chocolate bliss at Dorinda's Chocolates & Essentials. There are dozens of flavors of truffles and bonbons, and you must be sure to try the award-winning sea salt caramels (the big difference, according to Dorinda, is the use of honey instead of high fructose corn syrup).

Dorinda says quality is her main ingredient, which starts with using Valrhona chocolate from France. All components of her chocolates are natural, with no artificial ingredients and no wax. "Yes, most modern chocolate includes paraffin wax as a preservative," Dorinda says.

And it is not only chocolate that is available at Dorinda’s Chocolates & Essentials. The store also carries loose-leaf teas, accessories and uniquely crafted baskets. 

Dorinda's first foray into chocolate was as a 12-year-old making chocolate-covered cherries for her family. Dorinda and her husband, Thom, have lived in Truckee for about a quarter of a century and raised their four boys in this mountain enclave. After home-schooling her boys, she had time to revisit that early passion of making chocolates. She took chocolate-making classes online, learned about the science behind quality chocolate and then began experimenting. She started selling her confections out of her car and slowly grew the company to what it is today.

Starting in 2008, for a short time she had a storefront in Truckee before moving operations to Reno. Making a full circle, the current and newest location opened in Truckee in December 2022. A master woodcrafter, Thom built the beautiful truffle cases, cabinets and displays for all of Dorinda's retail stores. 

Two of their sons are part of the family business. Dustin Vance runs the Reno chocolate factory, where all the family products are made, and the two Dorinda’s Chocolates retail locations in Reno. While Dorinda created most of the chocolate recipes at Dorinda's, Dustin has added a few to the ever-growing menu. Dillon Vance operates Rolled Mountain Creamery out of the two Reno storefronts, with his ice cream sandwiches also available at the Truckee chocolate store that his mom operates. 

Rest assured that Dorinda is cooking up something new for her Truckee stores. With this being such a small town, however, the entrepreneur is not quite ready to reveal her bigger vision for her expanding line of gourmet foods. 

In the meantime, you will find Dorinda in Truckee, either in Dorinda's Chocolates & Essentials or Tahoe Oil & Spice. The easiest way to know which store Dorinda is in is by looking for Greta, her Bernese Mountain Dog and work partner.

(530) 550-8857
10091 Donner Pass Road, Truckee, CA

(530) 562-6059
10191 Donner Pass Road, Truckee, CA

About the Author Kathryn Reed
Kathryn Reed is an award-winning journalist who has been visiting or living at Lake Tahoe since she was a child. She loves the outdoors – whether it's hiking, biking, snowshoeing, skiing or playing tennis. She is the author of Sleeping with Strangers: An Airbnb Host's Life in Lake Tahoe and Mexico; The Dirt Around Lake Tahoe: Must-Do Scenic Hikes; Snowshoeing Around Lake Tahoe: Must-Do Scenic Treks; and Lake Tahoe Trails for All Seasons: Must-Do Hiking and Snowshoe Treks.